Begging has become much more common in Sweden in recent years. Photo: Leif R Jansson / TT
Jörgen Sjåstad, the town’s municipal police officer, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper that he had begun to enforce the ban in the the week after Christmas.
“I have been out and spoken to two beggars, and moved one of them on, and it all went according to plan,” he told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. “I played them a pre-recorded message in Romanian telling them that it was forbidden to beg in the place where they were.”
The town's ban, which is Sweden's first, has been national news since it was voted through by the municipal board (kommunstyrelse) in August 2017, with many leading human rights organisations arguing the measure is inhumane.
The municipality's decision was first overturned by a county administrative board and later by the administrative court of appeal. But on December 17, Sweden's Supreme Administrative Court, which has the final word, ruled that the ban was legal.
Sjåstad said that he believed there were just three beggars active in the town and predicted the ban would not be difficult to enforce.
“It’s pretty simple. When we say to them that they are not allowed to beg and they go, then it’s done,” he said. “If they don’t do that, then we’ll have to escort them away, and ultimately apprehend them. But I don’t think it will come to that.”
Sjåstad said he believed that police in the municipality had sufficient time and resources, but conceded that begging was a relatively low priority crime, ranking below more serious offences such as harassment.
The centre-right Moderate Party campaigned in Sweden's recent general election on a pledge to ban begging across the country, following a similar ban in Denmark in 2014.
A survey carried out by state broadcaster SVT found that at least 40 municipalities in Sweden would be interested in bringing in a similar begging ban.
As well as Denmark, begging is also banned in some counties in Norway and has been illegal in England and Wales since the Vagrancy Act of 1824, although this ban is not well enforced.